Colorado children in kindergarten through third grade will soon be able to access age-appropriate literacy lessons by turning on the TV. The public television programming will include four consecutive half-hour literacy segments, each tailored to students at one of the four K-3 grade levels. Colorado teachers will lead the lessons, which are set to air 8-10 a.m. Monday through Friday starting May 18. The lessons will be broadcast in English with Spanish subtitles. Accompanying lesson plans and student work packets will be available online at www.rmpbs.org/ColoradoClassroom. With schools closed and spotty internet access in many households, especially in rural areas, the televised lessons give families another way to keep kids learning. At least 64,000 Colorado students don’t have internet access at home, a recent state survey found.
Survey and focus group responses reflected national concerns about principal turnover. In the NASSP-LPI survey, 42 percent of principals indicated they were considering leaving their position. The percentage of principals planning to move to a different school was higher for those in high-poverty schools and rural communities. Focus group participants also acknowledged challenges to the principalship that they believed could lead to turnover.
Nearly all educators (98 percent) agree that training in trauma-informed classroom practices is something all teachers need. And 82 percent say part of the role of teachers and staff is to connect students experiencing psychological trauma or distress with mental health support services. But 7 in 10 do not feel adequately prepared to implement trauma-informed approaches in teaching. That’s according to a survey of 8,054 K-12 educators across 11 states, conducted between November 2018 and March 2020 by Kognito, a developer of role-play simulations to help prepare professionals and students to lead conversations in real life to improve social, emotional and physical health. Also sponsoring the survey was The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools and Mental Health America of Greater Houston’s Center for School Behavioral Health.
The current economic downturn will put a large number of public school teachers’ jobs at risk. How do I know this? Because it happened to us before, just 12 years ago. Between 2008 and 2010, during the Great Recession, our country lost more than 120,000 teaching positions (see figure below). The number of impacted jobs would have been even worse if not for the Federal Recovery Act, which provided $97.4 billion to our public schools. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Approximately 275,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors, were saved or created with Recovery Act funding.” In other words, if the federal government had not stepped in to help our public schools, more than 395,000 education jobs would have been lost.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, over half of the nation’s K-12 students are children of color, while about 80% of the educator workforce is white. States are increasingly interested in closing this diversity gap, as studies show that a more diverse teacher workforce benefits both students in the classroom and teachers already in the field. All students benefit from having a teacher of color, but research shows that the impact is especially powerful for students of color. When taught by a teacher of color, students of color have improved academic performance and social and emotional learning. There is also evidence that increasing teacher workforce diversity benefits teachers of color by reducing feelings of isolation, frustration and fatigue.
The crucial question that has emerged is: how do we engage learners when we are not together physically? It’s a complicated question, even in the best of times—one that has been at the forefront of our daily online teaching practice and our research into the online behaviors and interactions that can have the greatest impact on successful learner outcomes. Thankfully, research into online learning can provide us with a starting point to make sure our students continue to be engaged in the process of learning. There isn’t one solution for increasing learner engagement and motivation. Online teachers need to combine multiple strategies to reach learners, such as strengthening relationships with learners, engaging families and helping learners connect with their peers.
Voices from the (Virtual) Classroom is a nationally representative survey of public school teachers exploring education during this crisis — what is working, what isn’t, what is needed now — and what teachers think the priorities should be when we return to the classroom. The pandemic has taken an immense human and economic toll on our education system. These survey results outline what teachers and their students need now and in the future, providing valuable guidance for decision-makers making hard choices in the months ahead as they reopen schools amidst budget shortfalls.